Chief Caleen Sisk, interviewed by television news crew
SACRAMENTO—Governor Jerry Brown held a second California Water Summit at the Westin Hotel on July 29 and 30 in Sacramento. The Winnemem Wintu Tribe, members of the Concow Maidu, Miwok, Hoopa Valley, Pomo, Wailaki, other California tribal representatives and Native Hawaiian groups gathered outside the Westin Hotel in order to protest their exclusion from this second summit.
Winnemem Wintu and Allies protest
They were joined by representatives from the Klamath Riverkeepers, Restore the Delta, and Occupy Sacramento among other allies and supporters. More than 200 people attended this protest, led by Caleen Sisk, tribal chief and spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu.
The Brown administration advertised the event as a conference to discuss the latest developments, including project selection for the 7.5 billion dollar water bond money now available after the passage of the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Act of 2014, better known as Brown’s Proposition 1. The primary problem was that Gov. Brown charged a whopping $1500.00 per person for entry to the summit.
Michael Tuiimyali and Mashalle Olomi protest outside Westin Hotel
“There have been no efforts to include tribal representatives, environmentalists, or anyone advocating for sound water policy that will benefit future generations, local ecosystems, salmon and other fisheries. Most of the California Indians who are working on tribal water rights and for healthier rivers can’t afford a $1500.00 registration fee,” said Chief Sisk.
“This is clearly an effort by Gov. Brown to exclude the tribal voice, shut out anyone who disagrees with his destructive water plans and provide an opportunity for government and big water power brokers to collude behind closed doors,” explained Chief Sisk.
Gerald Thomas, an Elem Pomo member, held a sign proclaiming, “Warrior Up for Water” outside the Hotel, agreed with Sisk. “This exclusion of tribes from a major water conference affects all of us. Without water we can’t breathe, without water we can’t live,” he said. Writer Dan Bacher noted, “the corporate and water domination of the event was no surprise, when you consider that big money interests dumped $21,820,691 into the Proposition 1 campaign. There is no doubt that these wealthy corporate interests are expecting a big return for their “investment,” especially the construction of the Twin Tunnels under the Delta and new dams”. The money contributors included corporate agribusiness groups, billionaires, timber barons, Big Oil, the tobacco industry, corporate “environmental” NGO’s including the Nature Conservancy, and the California Chamber of Commerce.
Rosa Rivera Furamoto, Nanea Young and Mikilani Young, Native Hawaiians, traveled from Los Angeles to show the connections between the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the mountain of Mauna Kea in Hawaii and water struggles in California. “From one mountain to another, we are trying to protect the sacred land. We came up from L.A. to stand with the native people of California,” said Mikilani Young.
A review of the agenda and website reveals that the conference was designed for water districts, staff, government scientists, corporate representatives, and other advocates who agree with Governor Brown’s projects such as the Shasta Dam raise and the Twin Delta Tunnels. According to Chief Sisk, “both of these projects would be devastating for salmon, resources, and tribal cultural sites including those located on the McCloud River that weren’t flooded by the Shasta Dam originally. The Winnemem Wintu have an especially important stake in the bond funds, because they could be used to support the Shasta Dam raise to enlarge Shasta Lake’s capacity. This in turn would flood or damage 40 sacred sites vital to our religion and cultural practices”.
“We accomplished our major goal to let people know we want to be involved in water discussions, but are being excluded by the Governor’s staff at the California water summit. We need water for salmon, and Tribes are first in time and first in rights for water,” said Chief Caleen Sisk.
Nanette Bradley Deetz is of Dakota, Cherokee and German descent. She is a poet, writer, educator and sometimes musician whose poetry appears in several anthologies. The most current is “Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down,” published by Scarlett Tanager Press; “Turtle Island to Abya Yala, A Love Anthology of Art and Poetry by Native American and Latina Women,” Malinalli Press, and “Alameda Island Theme Poems, 2004,2005 & 2006.” She combines poetry and music in her band, Redbird Giving which performs at many Bay Area native and non-native venues. She is a correspondent for the Alameda Journal and Native News Online.
Photos by Dan Bacher.